Over the last few years, I’ve begun to appreciate the extraordinary power of acceptance. This has occurred in my growing acceptance of myself, my growing acceptance of others, and the experience of others accepting me as I am.

I suspect that acceptance is the antidote to judgement. The more I am judged (by myself and others), the more I defend and justify who I am. In so doing, I become more the version of myself I am defending and more inclined to be defensive, both to myself and others.

In accepting myself and being accepted, however, I end up in a space in which growth is possible. I can explore and discover who I am and who I can be without fear that I am not good enough. Judgement is removed from the equation and progress becomes positively motivated instead.

I must stress that this is not a case of accepting the good and rejecting the bad in myself. I’m not interested in praising myself for my virtues and condemning myself for my flaws. Instead judgement is simply removed and I accept myself as I am. From that point, I can grow (as opposed to improving, which is rooted in judgement).

At the same time as appreciating how positive acceptance is in my life, I’ve observed that those around me benefit from acceptance when they receive it, whether from me or from someone else.

Perhaps acceptance is the root of positive relationships. In the same way that acceptance creates a space in which we can grow as individuals, it creates a space in which we can grow together.

As a South African living in a very fractured post-apartheid society, I can’t help but think that acceptance has to be added to the healing process. We can address the social and economic inequality and I agree that we must, but we also have to build positive relationships in order to grow as a society. Accepting each other – not judging each other worthy, but rather removing judgement from the equation – will surely take us at least a small step forward.

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